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Study: Surfing's up for mamas and papas

Parents are enthusiastically embracing the tech wave and the Internet, according to a new study on the Web habits of moms and dads.

Parents are enthusiastically embracing the tech wave, according to a new study on the Web habits of moms and dads.

A study scheduled for release Monday from the found that parents with children living at home are more likely to use the Internet and are more excited about technology and its benefits than people who are not parents, making mothers and fathers an increasingly important market for technology businesses.

"Many wired parents are convinced technology helps them stay more in control of their busy lives," Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, said in a statement. "Even more important is that they are anxious to make sure their children learn how to use the Internet."

In one finding, 70 percent of parents with a child at home said they have access to the Internet, compared with just 53 percent of nonparents. The study, which surveyed 1,677 Americans, defined "nonparents" as those without a child under 18 living at home.

The study comes as more Web companies are eyeing parents' preferences when marketing and developing products. Microsoft, for instance, has identified parents as an important customer base to target and is promoting parental controls as one of the primary features of its new MSN 8 Web software, in an attempt to go toe-to-toe with America Online. For years, AOL has touted its online service's child-friendly features in order to appeal to families.

Children are often the catalyst for parents going online, Pew researchers found.

"Many...children who learn to use the Internet at school, from friends, or (who) are self-taught, subsequently teach their parents how to use the Internet," the report said.

Nearly three in four of the parents surveyed for the study said the Internet helped them learn new things, and 61 percent said it improved the way they keep in touch with friends. Parents found the Internet particularly helpful for planning weekend outings and family trips, and for shopping for gifts. About 26 percent said it even improved the way they interact with their children.

Parents are also more likely than nonparents to use the Internet for banking, researching jobs and finding a new place to live.

However, the study found that although parents are more likely to have access to the Internet, they actually spend fewer hours online than nonparents--an average of 81 minutes per day versus 94 minutes.

Pew researchers said some of the findings about parents' Web habits can be explained by the respondents' overall demographics. For example, parents tend to be younger, wealthier and more educated than the overall nonparent population, characteristics that usually correlate with Internet use.